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How to Pick the Right HVAC Certification Training near Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama residential air conditioning condensersNow that you have decided on a career as a heating and air conditioning specialist, the next action is to locate an HVAC technical school near Birmingham AL. But with so many to select from, how do you choose the best one to obtain the training that you require? Many potential students will make their decision based exclusively on the cost of tuition or how close the school is to their residence. Although these are necessary factors to consider, they are not the only ones to take into account. Some of the other factors that you need to look into are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and other criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to select an HVAC technical school, let's take a look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed professional tradesman.

How to Become an HVAC Specialist

Birmingham Alabama HVAC Tech servicing air conditioning condenserHVAC is an acronym that is widely used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC professionals provide services for the installation, maintenance and repair of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As skilled tradesmen, they are typically mandated to be licensed, however each state and local municipality has its own prerequisites. Obtaining professional certification is not compulsory, but an optional way for Birmingham AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are highly qualified and accomplished in their area of specialization. There are several recognized certifications within the trade that are available. Below are a few of the significant ones.

  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a proficiency exam and can be received in one or more specialties.
  • HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. 2 years of professional experience together with passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have three years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level exam. As with NATE, certifications are offered in multiple specialties.
  • EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for techs that work with refrigerants. There are 3 types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.

Since licensing might be required in your location, and you may also intend to obtain certification, it's imperative that you select an HVAC technical school that will prepare you for both. And since you will more than likely be working with refrigerants, make sure that the program you select readies you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.

HVAC Certificate and Degree Schools

Birmingham Alabama residential heater

There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or trade school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Acquiring a certificate will take the least period of time, usually achieved in just six months, however some programs are longer. A certificate will qualify you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs might provide a competitive edge in the job market and will furnish more extensive training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief description of each credential offered near Birmingham AL.

  • Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level residential or commercial HVAC professionals. They provide a strong foundation of skills for employment within the trade.
  • Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program delivers a more exhaustive knowledge of heating & cooling systems than the certificate program. Generally taking 2 years to finish, a number of degrees incorporate an internship or work-study program.
  • Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is geared more for a career in management or even business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional 4 year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also learn how to design them.

Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, along with the time and financial resources that you have to invest. One approach is to begin with a certificate or even an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the trade in Birmingham AL, later returning to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC tech school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.

HVAC Online Schools

Attending an HVAC school online is one alternative in attaining your training and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to participate in practical training. A number also sponsor internship or work-study programs in addition to or instead of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be participated in online, this alternative may be a more practical solution for many Birmingham AL students that are short on time. And a number of online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Birmingham and study supplies may be reduced, helping to make education more economical. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family obligations have left you with minimal time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to accommodate school into your hectic lifestyle.

What to Ask HVAC Training Programs

Birmingham Alabama Heating and Cooling tech replacing water heater

As soon as you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you wish to acquire, either on campus or online, you can start to decrease your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are numerous HVAC trade schools in the Birmingham AL area and all over the Country to choose from. That's why it is extremely important to have a list of relevant qualifications when making school assessments. As formerly stated in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the first 2 factors you will consider. Following are several additional ones that you need to research before enrolling in your school of choice.

Accreditation.  A large number of HVAC trade programs in the Birmingham AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Make sure that the school is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping guarantee that you obtain a superior education, it may assist in obtaining financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Also, some states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited for it to be approved for licensing.

High Completion Rates.  Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A lower completion rate may indicate that students were dissatisfied with the course and dropped out. It could also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's also important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of alumni, which can produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Birmingham AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.

Apprenticeship Programs.  Most HVAC technical programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and vocational programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program inside their network of Heating and Cooling companies or trade unions. Ask if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Birmingham AL HVAC companies. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also provides employment opportunities and helps to establish relationships in the local HVAC professional community.

Modern Facilities.  Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be instructed on are up-to-date and what you will be working with on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, consult with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be expecting. If not, ask a local Birmingham AL HVAC contractor if they can give you some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within commuting distance of your Birmingham AL home. Take note that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be increased tuition fees compared to in-state residents.

Smaller Classes.   It's important that you get as much individualized training as possible, which can be challenging in bigger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between students and instructors. Speak to several of the students and get their comments regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with a few of the instructors and find out what their level of experience is and what degrees or certifications they have earned.

Flexible Scheduling.  Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are assessing are flexible enough to meet your needs. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Birmingham AL, check that the programs you are looking at offer those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select permits part-time enrollment. Additionally, find out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Birmingham HVAC Courses In Your Area

Get Your HVAC Certificate or Degree

Enrolling in the right HVAC school program is an important beginning toward a rewarding career in the heating and cooling industry. As we have discussed in this article, you should pick a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC community. Other things to look for are ample practical training and modern facilities. You should go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to explore the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Try to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Also, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have outlined in our guidelines for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an informed decision. With the proper training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC specialist in Birmingham AL.